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Unemployment benefits special session: No vote today

Sen. David Schapira, D-Tempe (left), discusses the number of votes his caucus is ready to give to the unemployment benefits extension a "yes" vote with Sen. President Russell Pearce, R-Mesa, before the special session floor action begins Friday. (Photo by Evan Wyloge/Arizona Capitol Times)

Sen. David Schapira, D-Tempe (left), discusses the number of votes his caucus is ready to give to the unemployment benefits extension a "yes" vote with Sen. President Russell Pearce, R-Mesa, before the special session floor action begins Friday. (Photo by Evan Wyloge/Arizona Capitol Times)

Arizona lawmakers have convened a special session to address extending unemployment benefits for those who have been out of work for more than a year, but there won’t be a vote today.

Instead, the Legislature will adjourn without taking action to advance the governor’s proposal and come back to work on Monday afternoon.

House Majority Leader Steve Court said a combination of factors influenced the decision, among them spotty attendance and an uncertainty whether the measure will find the supermajority support it needs in each chamber to pass with an emergency clause.

That will allow it to go into effect immediately, instead of after 90 days, and will prevent a major lapse in benefits for 15,000 people who will stop receiving unemployment insurance payments tomorrow.

However, Court acknowledged that he didn’t know what the net effect would be Monday for attendance, as some members present today won’t be able to make it next week.

Sens. John McComish, R-Phoenix, and Andy Biggs, R-Glendale, greet each other as the special session begins. (Photo by Evan Wyloge/Arizona Capitol Times)

Sens. John McComish, R-Phoenix, and Andy Biggs, R-Glendale, greet each other as the special session begins. (Photo by Evan Wyloge/Arizona Capitol Times)

Chief among those who won’t be able to attend are Democratic lawmakers, who are essential if the bill is to pass, as many Republicans have vowed not to support it. There were 19 Democrats present in the House today, but House Assistant Minority Leader Steve Farley said that number will only be 14 next week.

“If this thing isn’t done today, it’s not going to pass,” Farley said.

Several Republicans in the House said that as of now, they were undecided of how they were going to vote, saying that they have to see something before they could say definitively where they would land.

“The humanitarian side of me says that this is something people need and we should help them,” said Rep. Steve Urie, R-Gilbert. “But on the other side, do we want to keep adding to the debt that we’re leaving our children and grandchildren?”

Officials at the Arizona Department of Economic Security said failure to approve the extension today will result in a disruption of benefits for those people. However, a spokesman for the U.S. Department of Labor said that, if there is a disruption, it would only last a couple of days and those affected would receive retroactive payments.

The benefits extension program is expiring because Arizona’s unemployment rate had dropped to a level that requires the program to end based on a formula in state law.

Sen. Leah Landrum-Taylor, D-Phoenix, addresses the Senate on the importance of passing the unemployment benefits extension. (Photo by Evan Wyloge/Arizona Capitol Times)

Sen. Leah Landrum Taylor, D-Phoenix, addresses the Senate on the importance of passing the unemployment benefits extension. (Photo by Evan Wyloge/Arizona Capitol Times)

The Department of Economic Security has already sent out letters to more than 29,000 people who could be affected by the loss of extended unemployment benefits.

Earlier this year, Congress allowed states to adjust their formulas to compare current unemployment levels to what they were three years ago instead of two years ago. While many states adjusted their formulas, Arizona did not.

5 comments

  1. This is money that is desperatly needed by the people that are continuing to look for work in a job market that is the worst Ive seen in my lifetime.

  2. How can anyone claim to represent “The People” and not want to see Arizonas unemployed recieve further benefits? People need to keep a couple of gallons of 4.00 gas in the tank to make it to any possible job interviews. The job market is worse than I have ever seen. I can only liken this situation to stories my Grandfather told me of the Great Depression. When the too big to fail banks needed a bail out they got it. Now our representatives at the state level seem to have an attitude of “too small to care” about the Arizona unemployed. It’s not for Russel Pearce or anyone else in the State legislature to fix the debt concerns at the Federal level…we have a President for that. Pearce and his reluctant Republicans need to do the right thing by Arizona and let Federal level issues be left to the people above his pay grade. By their reconing, the unemployed will hurry right up and go get that job they have been just putting off for a year, I’m sure that having utilities cut off, no transportation fuel, and facing eviction will speed the state economy right back to 2005 levels.
    Thank you Mr. Pearce, you just convinced me to change party affilation.

  3. this is the worst job market we have been faced with-shame on our
    lawmakers if they fail to extend benefits. Will they give up the $4,000.00
    they are receiving daily to attend this special session???

  4. “The benefits extension program is expiring because Arizona’s unemployment rate had dropped to a level that requires the program to end based on a formula in state law.” ARIZONA IS ONE OF THE HIGHEST UNEMPLOYMENT PERCENTAGES IN THE U.S. so why does this even apply to us?
    I am reaching my end of my weekly checks that I depend on to live and look for a job. I made 100k a year and will take half of that at this time and I am still unable to obtain a position. To the best of my knowledge my taxes I paid out for 20 years should be helping me out now in this time of need instead of allowing a bunch of illegals to get on welfare who never paid one cent on any taxes but can use the taxes that hard working people(well Americans- LEGAL) that paid taxes into this program and that now are being shut out of their benefits.. Now does this seem American?

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